Greening ELT: Eco ELT – Encouraging eco-awareness in an international publishing house

In our 8th post in the Greening ELT series, we're very pleased to welcome Janet Aitchison. She shares a personal report on an interesting initiative from Oxford University Press: a two-week eco event for staff at offices around the world.
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Do you know …

A which end of a cow emits more methane?

  1. front
  2.  back

B which two countries are on track to meet their Paris Agreement targets?

  1. Sweden and Finland
  2. Morocco and the Gambia
  3. New Zealand and Australia

[Answers and sources at the end of this post.]

These questions were part of the ‘EcoELT Quiz’ – just one of the activities held in Oxford University Press’ New York office last month as part of a fortnight of activities on environmental themes. Dubbed Eco ELT, this two-week global ‘festival of learning’ was designed to initiate discussion and education around issues of corporate sustainability and environmental impact. Staff in OUP offices around the world were encouraged to organize local events to raise awareness of environmental issues and to encourage further learning and exploration.

There were an impressive range of activities. Teams in Thailand, Brazil, Vietnam, and Indonesia watched documentaries about environmental issues; in Spain staff planted trees as part of a reforestation project and learned about sustainable printing. The team in OUP Turkey organised a talk by Patrick Jackson, author of Potato Pals, and Everybody UP! In the UK, staff attended workshops and talks, including one given by a representative from Solar Aid, an international charity, on their work to combat poverty and climate change, and another from the Head of Sustainability at the University of Oxford.

In a competitively focused activity, daily challenges were posted on OUP’s internal social media platform, encouraging staff around the world to engage in the discussion. Challenges ranged from seeking out more environmentally friendly ways of commuting, to thinking about ways to reduce consumption of single-use plastic in business processes. It generated lots of discussion, and people globally were able to share their ideas.

The fortnight of activities flew by and while we may not have changed the world we certainly raised awareness across OUP of the importance of thinking about the environmental impact of our behavior, both as individuals and as members of a global organization. EcoELT may have ended, but of course the work we need to do to reduce OUP’s environmental impact continues. We are sharing the ideas that came out of EcoELT with our new Director of Sustainability (starting January 2020) who will bring new initiatives to enable OUP to meet its environmental responsibilities.

If you’re looking to encourage a greater focus on environmental issues in your workplace and have colleagues who are eager to run creative activities then this type of event is quite easy to organize. You’ll need to consider the practicalities, such as how you run these activities alongside the normal working day, perhaps using lunch breaks or allowing staff (where possible) to take time out to learn something new.

Answers

  1. (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/29/cows-farts-children-climate-questions-answered)
  2. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2018/10/11/few-countries-are-meeting-paris-climate-goals-here-are-ones-that-are/

Janet Aitchison is a Publisher at Oxford University Press in New York. She is currently studying part-time for an MSc in Environmental Management with the UK’s Open University.

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